Bistro 1093 at Edison Academy
“That pot over there—what’s it doing?” asks Chef Glenn Walden of his Culinary Arts students.
“Steaming,” says one student.“Smoking,” observes another.
“What does that mean?” asks the chef.
“That it’s burning?” asks one of the students.
“Then what should you do?” continues Walden.
“Take it off the heat?” responds a student.
“And?” prompts the chef.
“Turn off the burner,” states another student.
This conversation is indicative of the back-and-forth between Walden, Culinary Arts teacher at Edison Academy, and his students. While the students prepare food in a commercial kitchen, Walden is good-naturedly quizzing and prompting them to do things according to industry standards while creating a quality product. “They need to understand that we can fix this,” he states, referring to the burning pot incident. “It happens all the time.”
Every week, the Culinary Arts level 1 and 2 students prepare a sit-down meal with full service, just like a restaurant, as well as carryout food that can be tailored to a customer’s likes and needs, known as Bistro 1093. Their hard work produces enough food to feed 150 people. Walden says some Edison teachers plan on Thursday nights as a night off from cooking at home and enthusiastically purchase student-prepared carryout food for their families. On a recent Thursday, the menu included chicken and chickpea curry with basmati rice, beef stroganoff with noodles, pasta fagioli, Greek salad, ciabatta, spring rolls, and a choice of flan or baklava for dessert. Some of the dine-in guests have been attending Edison Academy luncheons for years; on one Thursday, a program alumnus enjoyed the meal and told Walden that while he wasn’t studying culinary arts in college, he was using a lot of the information he learned in class in his college courses. All proceeds from the Bistro 1093 program go back into the program and also fund activities like SkillsUSA competitions.
Walden works with the students as they get ready for the lunch service, providing reminders about the steps that are necessary to prepare each part of the meal, and to double-check all orders. As the students prepare the day’s food, Walden reminds them, “It’s more important that you serve hot food to your customers. Make sure the food is the best it can be.”
In the Edison Academy kitchen, every student has a job, and if a student misses class, Walden makes sure the remaining students can backfill their jobs. “It’s just like a real restaurant,” he explains. “We cover for each other, and this is why we do what we do. You never know when someone won’t show up.” Students step into these roles seamlessly, and the service goes off without a hitch. At the end of the lunch service, the students sit down and eat together.
Level 2 student Alina, who is heading to Johnson and Wales University next year, is taking the class as a step toward her dream of becoming a professional chef. She enjoys working with all of the different possible combinations in cooking, and appreciates the fact that “we’re a family” in the kitchen. Student Enrique claims not to be good at baking, but Walden adds that many of his students end up preparing meals for their families at home.
While safety and sanitation are paramount, Walden ensures that students are actively involved in team building while they are learning to prepare stocks and sauces and to cook everything from meat to fish to vegetables to dessert. Throughout the year, Bistro 1093 serves a menu that is selected by Walden. Near the end of the year, he arranges a Chopped-style contest by providing students with a list of atypical ingredients while challenging them to create innovative dishes.
By the time students have completed level 1 and 2 classes, they have learned how institutional food establishments—government, commercial, and independently owned—operate, and can plan, prepare, and serve food using industry standards in nutrition, sanitation, and food safety. They are skilled in problem solving, management, and incorporate basic math, science, and communication skills while working in the kitchen. And they are prepared to work in the industry and continue their education at one of the postsecondary institutions that offer an articulation agreement (Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales University, Stratford University) or dual enrollment opportunities (Northern Virginia Community College).
Walden, who began his career as a dishwasher in high school, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has worked as a sous chef, executive chef, and instructor and Dean of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management at Stratford University. He has been at Edison Academy since 2008. Walden is a Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Educator from the American Culinary Federation and earned his master’s in education from Virginia Tech.